Call them the cooler heads. They intend to prevail.

Amid the screaming headlines and hysterical television coverage of the stock market over the last few days, we found investors who ignored the chaos. From Virginia to Iowa, Indiana to California, these investors -- who range from their 20s to their late 50s -- didn't panic and sell. In fact, while others were losing their heads Friday and Monday, some of them were picking up bargains. What's the key to their cool?

A Longer-Term View

It starts with experience. Chris Goeb, 51, a food service executive in Iowa, has been investing for 30 years. His first hard lesson came during the market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, when the Standard & Poor's 500 lost 20% of its value in a single day. "I was so stupid," he recalls. "I panicked and, after the market dropped, I moved everything into cash. It was less than $10,000, but I learned my lesson and now I never flinch at these things anymore."

For Houston banker David Kerr, 57, it was the dot-com meltdown. "One of the counselors at the bank I was working for at the time put me into a high-tech mutual fund," he says. "When that thing crashed, I lost 80%. It wasn't much money, so it didn't hurt too bad. But I learned be careful of the herd." Kerr also ignores the news coverage: "Listening to the chatter is the wrong thing to do. It can take you off your focus."

Even Andrew Jandt, 28, took advantage of vicarious experience during a more recent meltdown. "In 2008, most of the older people I worked with had all seen the market crash in the past, and they didn't seem to worry about it, unless they were close to retirement," says Jandt, who works in the aerospace industry in southern California. "I stayed in the market in 2008 and made personal sacrifices to up my contributions."

Jandt moved into a small apartment a block away from his office so he could walk to work, and talked his employer into letting him park his car -- which he's had since college -- in the company garage for free. He and his girlfriend have been cooking more often to save up cash to invest. "I'm not trying to beat the mega computers and financial engineers -- that can break you," he says. "Like Warren Buffett, I try to buy at the right price at the right time." He put several buy orders in on Monday.

Maintaining a Strategy

For other investors, calm is a consistent part of their long-term strategy. "I look to stay fully invested -- I did through the last crisis and intend to do that this time," says Gregory Pemberton, 58, a partner in an Indiana law firm. "The only move I made was at the suggestion of my broker late last week; we took some profits on three or four individual holdings we've had for a while."

Some of those stocks hit 52-week highs over the summer, and his broker suggested he pocket the gains before the shares slid further, he says. "I'm a good conservative Midwesterner, and for the most part, we just spend a lot less than we make," says Pemberton, whose latest read is "Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should Too."

Several investors bought stocks Monday, including a man we'll call Gary Lewis, a 50-year-old Midwest communications executive who asked us not to use his real name. "Every time I see panic I get excited, because that means there are opportunities out there," he says. "I'm not looking for fast money, but to grow rich slowly. I can take risks because I have another 15 or 20 years before I need the money."

Lewis maintains a list of his favorite domestic stocks that offer dividends of 4% or more, and makes sure he's ready to buy when they hit his target price. Monday, he picked up some names in the energy sector. "I never thought I could get them at my price point, but I did," he says.

A 32-year-old investor, who works in regulatory reporting in a San Francisco bank and who asked not to be named, says she maintains her cool by keeping a steady eye on her long-term goals. Her goals include buying a single-family home and creating a college fund for 2-year-old daughter. "It hurts to see my personal investment portfolio go red in just two weeks, but you have to realize we have made money in the past and will continue to," says the investor, who we'll call Sarah Lane.

She put herself through college, graduating with student loans and credit-card debt, and paid those off in five years. Then she began saving. Over the last five years, she has lived off the same paycheck, earmarking raises for her retirement fund. After the 2008 decline, Lane says she began maxing out her 401(k) contributions. "Every time everyone panics, I think of Warren Buffet's famous line: 'Be fearful when others are greedy, and [be] greedy when others are fearful,'" she says. "The last thing you want to do is sell in a panic."

Wall Street Skepticism

Goeb, who invests in stocks and mutual funds through his 401(k)plan, also views the latest downturn as a buying opportunity, adding that he would jump in if the market continued to fall this week. But he says he's become "jaded" about Wall Street, citing the rise of high-frequency trading and speculative hedge funds.

"Traders and speculators are manipulating the market," he says. "I'm in the food industry, so we look at commodities, and there's no basis of reality in supply and demand."

John Reinan, a 53-year-old Minnesota marketing executive, agrees. "I feel like the stock market now is something that operates to benefit the relative handful of hugely wealthy investors and hedge funds, and the average investor gets screwed over and over," he says.

Reinan and his spouse contribute 10% of their salaries to a target-date fund through their 401(k) plans and invest in a 529 college savings plan for their 11-year-old daughter. He has a portfolio in the mid-six figures, but with declines in 2002 and 2008, it hasn't made much progress over the last decade. He intends to stay the course, but wants to see changes that reduce speculation.

"I feel like Washington needs to rein in Wall Street like it did in the 1930s, and they don't have the guts to do it," he says. "I think a lot of activity is not about investing to build anything. It's become a game, and you need to remove some of the incentives for Wall Street to be a financial casino." Reinan favors a tax on high-speed trades, for example.

Anger at Washington

Investors were universally unhappy with the partisanship in Washington, calling the debt-ceiling law a tepid response to the nation's fiscal crisis.

"It's just really disappointing," says Kerr, who has one son in the workforce and twin sons who are scheduled to graduate from Texas A&M University this week. One of the twins is joining the Navy, and Kerr worries that the other one will face a difficult job market. "It seems like everybody is talking and blaming the other side and nothing gets done," she says. "There is a little fear that the government doesn't have the wherewithal to do much, should we get into another recession."

Watching the market collapse, Edward Lee, a 43-year-old executive recruiter in Arlington, Va., says, "I just cringe." Lee is married with two children, who are 11 and 7 years old. "Like most people, our focus is college and then retirement," he says. "We've been very frugal. We pay our bills on time and pay off our credit cards and save the extra. We're not selling anything but not [buying] either. Our concern is twofold: It's the personal, but the implications for the country are also in the back of our minds."

Lee paid his own way through law school and then joined the Marine Corps as a judge advocate after graduating in 1995. He says he used to be a more active investor, but sold his portfolio at the top in the early 2000s to finance a home purchase – "pure dumb luck" he calls it -- and now invests mainly in mutual funds.

"I think this is scarier that what happened in 2008," Lee says. "I'm apolitical: I thought Reagan was a good president, I thought Clinton was a good president. But I think we are handing off a sad country to our kids.
I still have faith in the country, but I don't have faith in the political process. ... [Policymakers] need to cut out the childish stuff and focus on running the country like a good company."


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Sarah Lane

Who you'll call "Sarah Lane"...? Really? SEO shenanigans are getting creepy.

August 15 2011 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jwmgrand

No President could ever be as bad as Bush, he started a war after Repeatedly being told the was no WMDS just to grab oil for his rich oil friends who told him fetch ( it just happens that its the biggest oil reserve in the world in Iraq ) did any of this oil pay for his Billion a day War where is the oil revenue going ask your Senator or Congressman/Woman who is recieving this oil revenue ? Not to mention letting his Rich friends rob every bank blind from Maine to California and then making the Government bail them out ! Its not Obamas fault Bush left him with a recession and Trillion dollar defaults .... just so his friends could live large , not to mention the taxes he placed on the middle class while giving the richest the best tax breaks in 50 years . Oh Yeah he was a real peach !

August 12 2011 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jwmgrand

Gold is the new bad child that must be punished , they will continue to beat on gold to get the sheep back in the market and take more of their money with ...... gee more bad news from Europe .. or bad GDP numbers they invent a BIG monster to scare on a daily basis to move billions of dollars .... into the place that they can gain the most money from . You would have to be blind not to see that they are running a game .

August 12 2011 at 3:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bchrist751

Obama, What a disaster for this country....Obama is making Jimmy Carter Look Good!

August 12 2011 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bchrist751

this rule always works.... When the Media finds something else to focus on / report, the market regains its footing...

August 12 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gmydogbud

With Respect: See that we are going to be sending more aid to Somalia - While this sounds good, that we are helping people in need - WHERE Have The President & Congress Found The Money To Give Away? Right now our country is in the toilet, we have NO Money For American Senior Citizens, Where Is The Rest Of The World, Why Haven't They Come Up With The Money, For The People Of Somalia? Our President Has Gone All Over The World, Saying What A Rotten Country We Are; We No Longer Have A AA Rateing - Borrowing Money From China, To Gift Other Countries - While Being Able To Say - NO TO A COLA FOR SENIOR CITIZENS, While Members Of Congress, Have Given Themselves A $36,000.00 Dollar PER YEAR, COST OF LIVING INCREASE. Our President & Congress Have Money For Foriegn Countries, They Even GIVE China Who Owns The US Millions, Each Year. Lets See You Borrow Money From China & Then You GIFT China & Russia, Millions Each Year!! No Money For American Citizens However, Our Government Has Enough Money To Give To Countries & People Who Hate Us, Illegal Aliens & Their Anchor Babies, (Did You Know That Hidden In Obama Care, Is That ILLEGAL ALIENS, Are Covered! The American People Can NO LONGER, Afford Their LARGESS! Charity Begins At Home!!

August 12 2011 at 8:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wayne Hughes

The whole stock market values structure is "a paper dollhouse." By analogy buying and selling stocks is like how one plays their cards in a poker game. The only jokers are those who don't know when to hold them and when to fold them! Wayne Hughes. Genius. San Diego.

August 11 2011 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

Obama is history. Even the Dems are down on him. You libs may as well hang it up.

August 11 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
commish12804

mark my words friends, there will be another Great Depression before this year is out, so I have decreed it, so shall it come to pass, and the economy won't be in good shape until Obama Bin Laden is out of office.

August 11 2011 at 5:14 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to commish12804's comment
savemycountry911

He should be downgraded back to Community Organizer.

August 11 2011 at 8:02 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Steve

We have to grow our way out of this economic downturn. America is a people's economy - not a command economy not even a Wall Street economy. America's new mega industries are always started by entrpreneurs in their garages and kitchens. Messrs. Hewlett And Packard invented an electronic masterpiece in their garage and Mrs. Fields baked cookies in her kitchen. Henry Ford started the same way and so did the Wright Bros. It's small business start-ups that provide most new employment. Google, Apple, home security, and most bio-tech were unheard of 25 years ago. Roll out the red carpet for these folk and don't make stocks another bubble like cheap mortgages and hedge funds! It'll happen. Read all about the industrial life cycle in "The New American Dream - How To Make It happen!" available on Amazon Books. Amazon's Brazilian founder knew a thing or two!

August 11 2011 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment
gmydogbud

With Respect: How can we grow our way out of the economic downtrun, when the Politicans have allowed all our jobs to go off shore? The Politicans, Pushed NAFTA, On The American People!! This all started in the 1960's, at that time companies started to move jobs to the south for cheaper labor then the jobs went to Mexico and then off shore. Have hyou ever tried to find something made in America? My Mom, started asking for Cloths, Shoes, etc., Made In America - Years & Years ago and the sales people would look at her as though, she had lost her mind! This did not happen over night. It has been like placing a frog in a pot of water and slowly turning up the heat - it is dead before it knows what is going on. It has been the same thing with American jobs & who do we have to thank for this - The POLITICANS!!! You know the Highly Educated, Ivy League, Professorial Types. All they have done is a lot of CYA!!

August 11 2011 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gmydogbud's comment
keeshyboy

Politicians are only tools, like a hammer. The business owners and corporations are the tool users - they are the ones who used the politicians to push NAFTA, tax cuts for the rich and the corporations. Couldn't the politicians "just say no" and protect the working class. Good luck with that - where do they get the money for their re-election campaigns??

August 11 2011 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down